ENVIRONMENTALISTS have warned that planning policy is “failing lamentably” to protect Scotland’s wilderness as they step up calls for a ban on all large-scale industrial development on wild land.
The John Muir Trust said that new SNP planning proposals to ban wind farms on key wild land were not enough to protect the majority of Scotland’s wilderness from future threats.
Under the Scottish Government’s draft proposal, wind turbines would be prohibited in the 42 per cent of wild land recently identified in a new, official, extended wilderness map and which is already located within national parks or national scenic areas.
It would not afford the same level of protection from wind farm development to the remaining 58 per cent of wild land on the updated map – drawn up by Scottish Natural Heritage – which does not have national park or scenic area status.
The trust is calling for national designation for core wild land to provide statutory protection from all forms of major development to all wilderness areas.
Ministers giving evidence to MSPs on the cross-party Scottish Parliament public petitions committee yesterday said the SNP’s current proposals were adequate for protecting the land.
But vowing to continue fighting for statutory protection after the committee closed the debate on its petition yesterday, Helen McDade, trust head of policy, said: “The SNH wilderness map is a good step but our key point is that most of the wilderness which it identifies is not in a national park or scenic area.
“We are calling for national designation to protect all wilderness from any inappropriate industrial development.”
Stuart Brooks, trust chief executive, added: “The current planning system is failing lamentably to afford wild land the protection it needs.
“In the Highlands, planning officials have in recent weeks recommended ‘no objection’ to a series of large-scale developments that could lead to the loss of vast tracts of core wild land.”
Paul Wheelhouse, minister for the environment and climate change, and Derek Mackay, minister for local government and planning both defended the SNP’s proposals.
In addition to a blanket ban on wind farms in national parks and national scenic areas, the proposals would also prevent councils from approving wind developments in all areas given wilderness status under the new SNH map, unless any impact on the wild land can be “substantially overcome” for example by altering the siting or design of the development.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to protecting wild land in Scotland.
“Our planning policy already safeguards areas of wild land and now, for the first time, our new draft proposals provide greater clarity by including reference to a detailed core wild land map.”